In Somebody’s Daughter (Flatiron, June.), Ford reflects on coming of age in a household with a single mother and a father in prison.
When did you first begin to write about your father’s incarceration?
A group of friends and I had a shared blog in college. One day I decided to write about my father, specifically the fact that he was in prison for rape and that the shame that came with that crime wasn’t mine. I found that really heart opening, and I kept wanting to do it. I didn’t have regular communication with my father, and writing about it helped me process some of my feelings around him and his incarceration. I had a fantastic professor who told me, “I don’t know if you want to write it, but you have a book in you and you should write that book.”
One thing that struck me while reading your story was this current of unconditional love. Tell me more about that.
I grew up in a family that could be tough, but it was very clear that we were all on the same team. Even in her worst moments I never thought my mother didn’t love me. When I look back at my grandmother, when I look at her mother, and her mother, it’s very clear to me that these were not well-loved women, and I don’t know how you learn to love someone well when you don’t have a real great example of it. So my love for my mother is unconditional, my love for my family is unconditional. My presence is conditional. Having that love and understanding for them comes from demanding it for myself.
Has your father read the book?
He hasn’t read the book yet. I want to give it to him in person, so that’s going to have to wait until we’re vaccinated. My dad has a lot of room for my feelings, so that allows for a lot of growth and connection.
How do you see your book in conversation with others’ stories and experiences of incarceration today?
I think there have been a lot of stories of people who are or have been incarcerated, or have been a victim of a crime, but I don’t think there are many stories about the people who are affected and indirectly involved. My poor mother found herself at 22 with two kids under two, thrown into the role of sole provider. That was devastating for her and her children. I think my book fits in the places where I’m always trying to write, the gray areas, areas that people don’t talk about because they don’t know what to do. The kids of the incarcerated are still here—we still have our whole lives ahead of us, and to be stunted economically, emotionally, and mentally because of a decision that had nothing to do with us is a great failure in our society.